It became obvious following the trade of All-Star guard Chris Paul that the Los Angeles Clippers were ready to change the overall direction of the team. The future of forward Blake Griffin was unclear following the trade of his fellow All-Star teammate, but just days after the Clippers traded Paul to the Houston Rockets Griffin signed a mega-deal to remain in Los Angeles. Although he has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, the former top overall pick is off to one of the hottest starts of his career this season.
Stepping up when it matters
Although we are only in the opening chapters of the 2017/18 season, Griffin seems to be back to his All-Star form. He has already recorded two double-doubles and has scored at least 22 points in four of the first six contests. Without Paul running the show, Griffin has been forced to step up for the Clippers as the team’s true leader.
Given Patrick Beverley is no slouch at the point guard spot and DeAndre Jordan is a monster on the glass, this new-look Clippers team may prove to be a contender in the stacked Western Conference at season’s end. One of the most impressive things to notice about Griffin this season has been his ability to threaten opposing teams from nearly anywhere on the court. Griffin proved this last week with his 3-point shot to beat the buzzer and win the game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Evolving his game
Through his first seven years in the league, Griffin has finished with a 3-point percentage of .400 or better just once. Although it is still early in the season, Griffin is currently shooting .432 from beyond the three-point line. With that being said, his overall field goal percentage is down slightly from where he has been over the last few seasons. Nevertheless, this newfound ability has only made Griffin and the Clippers that much more dangerous to opposing defenses.
Even in the midst of the Clippers' blowout loss at the hands of the Warriors, Griffin still shot 50% from behind the 3-point line and was the team’s second leading scorer. Being that many basketball fans are used to seeing Griffin receive a pass and immediately drive the lane for a monstrous dunk, many now have to do a double-take to realize that he is consistently hitting his 3-point shots.
It's not all about the offensive side of things, either. Prior to the loss to Golden State, the Clippers were one of the only teams in the NBA averaging more than ten points than their opponents. Griffin has been a key part of these defensive numbers as he is averaging eight rebounds per game. With DeAndre Jordan already being one of the best defensive players in the NBA, the addition of Griffin’s efforts on both sides of the court may be what helps the Clippers get over the hump this season.
What is the ceiling?
Following the blockbuster deal with the Rockets, many people immediately counted the Clippers out and just assumed that they would head straight into rebuild mode. Griffin has proven to this point that this is far from the truth.
The Clippers may have a chance this season to prove that they are even more dangerous than they were with Paul leading the show. It only took the trading of an All-Star and a major payday to wake up the sleeping monster that is Blake Griffin. He is quickly proving this season why he was worthy of the contract extension he received over the summer.
Time will tell just how serious a contender the Clippers are, but with Griffin in this form there's no doubt that they can match it with the best.
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